April 22, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Ivana Kottasová, Travis Caldwell, Andrew Raine, Lianne Kolirin, George Ramsay, Adrienne Vogt, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 12:13 a.m. ET, April 23, 2022
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12:21 p.m. ET, April 22, 2022

Heavy fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, officials say

From CNN's Olga Voitovych and Yulia Kesaieva in Lviv

A man walks past a missile that lodged in the ground in Rubizhne in the Luhansk region of Ukraine, on April 21.
A man walks past a missile that lodged in the ground in Rubizhne in the Luhansk region of Ukraine, on April 21. (Hamuda Hassan/Reuters)

Ukrainian officials described heavy fighting throughout the Donetsk and Luhansk regions amid a Russian offensive in the Donbas. 

Olena Symonenko, an adviser to the Deputy Head of the Office of the President, said in televised remarks late Thursday that over the last 24-hour period, 42 more settlements had come under Russian control in the Donetsk region.

"This happened today, so it may well happen that our armed forces will return them under our control tomorrow. But as of today, we understand that fierce hostilities are ongoing in these settlements. And people who stayed there are staying in the shelters or basements."

Serhii Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said that Russian forces had been advancing in three directions toward the towns of Rubizhne, Popasna and Novotoshkivske. 

"The enemy is trying to advance in the area of ​​Rubizhne," he said. "The defensive battles with the enemy continue in the direction of the settlements of Novotoshkivske and Popasna."

Some context: Haidai told CNN on Wednesday that 80% of Luhansk's territory is under Russian control. Russian forces have made a greater effort in the last few weeks to direct their invasion toward taking parts of eastern and southern Ukraine.

3:17 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022

No evacuation corridors are open Friday, Ukraine deputy Prime minister says

From CNN's Olga Voitovych

Women from Mariupol disembark at an evacuation point, carrying people from Mariupol, Melitopol and surrounding towns under Russian control, on April 21, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.
Women from Mariupol disembark at an evacuation point, carrying people from Mariupol, Melitopol and surrounding towns under Russian control, on April 21, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

No evacuation corridors in Ukraine have been agreed with the Russians due to "danger on the routes," Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Friday.

Ukrainian officials have appealed for the Russians to guarantee safe passage for civilians, particularly those trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the Donetsk regional military administrator, said 79 residents of the besieged city of Mariupol were safely evacuated to Zaproizhzhia on Thursday, adding that almost 100,000 residents of Mariupol have already arrived in Zaporizhzhia.

Evacuations of Mariupol have been fraught with danger, however, as corridors for safe passage have failed on numerous occasions due to Russian forces' attacks in the area.

6:12 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022

What we know about the situation in Mariupol

An armoured convoy of pro-Russian troops moves along a road in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 21.
An armoured convoy of pro-Russian troops moves along a road in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 21. (Chingis Kondarov/Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the "liberation" of the besieged southern port city of Mariupol by Russian forces but claimed to have stopped short of storming of a steel plant — the final bastion of Ukrainian defenders inside the city, where civilians have also sheltered. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian forces there continue to resist.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Evidence of mass graves outside city: Claims by Ukrainian officials about the location of apparent mass graves outside Mariupol were bolstered by the publication of satellite images collected and analyzed by Maxar Technologies. CNN cannot independently verify claims that Russians have disposed of bodies in mass graves at that location, and a firm death toll following weeks of heavy bombardment of Mariupol is not available. But journalists in the city have documented the hasty burial of civilians there, and images have surfaced on social media showing bodies apparently left for collection in the city.
  • Steel plant barely holding on: The situation at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, a sprawling complex that once employed more than 10,000 people, is “close to a catastrophe,” the CEO of the company that owns the plant told CNN. Yuriy Ryzhenkov said originally there had been enough supplies for two to three weeks but they were almost eight weeks into the blockade. He added that those still there “were not giving up.” Hundreds of soldiers, as well as civilians seeking refuge, are believed to be pinned down by Russian attacks.
  • Russia scraps taking steel plant by force: According to state media, Putin told Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at a meeting at the Kremlin Thursday that there is no need to storm the industrial area around the Azovstal steel plant, and those who choose to surrender should be treated in accordance with international conventions. 
  • Ukraine disputes Russia's claim of control in Mariupol: Putin also congratulated Shoigu and the Russian military on taking control of the city of Mariupol. Ukrainian officials have denied that Mariupol has fallen to Russia, and President Zelensky has likened the siege to a "terrorist operation."
  • US questions Russia claims of city capture: US President Joe Biden said Thursday it was “questionable” whether Putin controls the city, and called on Putin to allow humanitarian aid into Ukraine to allow those trapped inside the steel plant to be able to get out.
  • Thousands remain trapped: President Zelensky said that "thousands" of civilians remain blockaded in the city and remain trapped by air and ground attacks with little opportunity to evacuate safely. Seventy-nine residents were safely evacuated to Zaproizhzhia on Thursday, the Donetsk regional military administrator said. However, shelling near the extraction point prevented others from being evacuated, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, and there was no possibility to evacuate civilians from the Azovstal plant. Vereshchuk said Friday that no evacuation corridors had been agreed with the Russian side due to "danger on the routes."
1:44 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022

Ukrainian lawmaker: "What's happening in Ukraine is called genocide"

From CNN's Travis Caldwell

In this file photo from June
In this file photo from June (Ovsyannikova Yulia/Ukrinform/Future Publishing/Getty Images)

A Ukrainian lawmaker said on Friday that Russia's brutality during its invasion of the country is evidence it cannot be trusted to uphold future peace and described its acts as "genocide."

Kira Rudik, a member of Ukraine's parliament, told CNN in an interview from Kyiv that fellow lawmakers were heartbroken over the news on Thursday of evacuation corridors in the besieged city of Mariupol — where estimates of tens of thousands of civilians are trapped — failing to hold.

“We had at least five buses of women and children ready to go, and we were not able to take them out because Russians didn't stop firing. We were not able to get the ceasefire from them, though beforehand they promised to do that,” Rudik said.
“So, could you even imagine what these women and children felt sitting there in the buses for, I don’t know, a couple of hours waiting if their life will be spared or not. And they were not. They had to return back.”

Russian atrocities have made it apparent to Ukrainians that the entirety of the nation must be defended at all costs, she said, noting the slain civilians found in cities north of Kyiv after Russian forces retreated.

"We are aware about what's facing us if we fail. I have been to Bucha. I know what they will do to us. And I don't want this to happen to myself, to any of the people that I love. That's why we are fighting. We'll be fighting for every single inch right until the end."

Rudik said she had faith in the international community to try and help put pressure on Russia moving forward, but called out countries for taking “halfway” acts — condemning the invasion yet still conducting trade with Russia.

Referencing Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, she added, “I understand that it takes time for the world to adapt to the truth that we in Ukraine have known for eight years. You cannot trust Russia.”

Rudik told CNN she did not have faith in settlements or negotiations because of Russian aggression, equivalating Putin’s acts with Nazi Germany in World War II.  

“This is why we are explaining to the world that what's happening in Ukraine is called genocide. This is why we're explaining to the world that you cannot get into any peaceful agreement with Russia, because in comparison it is like going into a peaceful agreement with Hitler and saying, ‘Oh, we will talk to him and probably he will spare some lives of the Jews,'" she said.

Further evacuations of Mariupol: Shelling near the extraction point prevented people from being evacuated Thursday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk had said.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the Donetsk regional military administrator, said 79 residents of the besieged city of Mariupol were safely evacuated to Zaproizhzhia on Thursday.

12:49 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022

Mass graves near Mariupol are evidence of war crimes, Ukrainian officials say

From CNN's Nathan Hodge, Julia Presniakova, Katie Polglase, Jennifer Hauser, Hira Humayun and Julia Hollingsworth

Ukrainian officials say they have identified mass graves outside the city of Mariupol, which they say adds to mounting proof of Russian war crimes against Ukrainian civilians.

The claim is supported by photos collected and analyzed by US satellite imagery company Maxar Technologies that appears to show more than 200 new graves at a site on the northwestern edge of Manhush, a town around 12 miles (19 kilometers) to the west of Mariupol.

An estimated 100,000 people remain trapped in Mariupol which has been under constant bombardment since it was surrounded by Russian forces on March 1, according to Ukrainian officials. Ukrainian officials claim that more than 20,000 people in the city have died during the assault.

In a post Thursday on messaging app Telegram, Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said Russian trucks had collected bodies from the port city, before "dumping them" in Manhush.

"This is direct evidence of war crimes and attempts to cover them up," he said.

CNN cannot independently verify claims Russians have disposed of bodies in mass graves at that location. A firm death toll following weeks of heavy bombardment of Mariupol is not available.

However, journalists in Mariupol have documented the hasty burial of civilians in the besieged city, and images have surfaced on social media showing bodies apparently left for collection in the city.

Read the full story:

12:29 a.m. ET, April 22, 2022

Russian troops use rape as "an instrument of war" in Ukraine, rights groups allege

From CNN's Tara John, Oleksandra Ochman and Sandi Sidhu

When Russian troops invaded Ukraine and began closing in on its capital, Kyiv, Andrii Dereko begged his 22-year-old stepdaughter Karina Yershova to leave the suburb where she lived.

But Yershova insisted she wanted to remain in Bucha, telling him: "Don't talk nonsense, everything will be fine — there will be no war," he said.

With her tattoos and long brown hair, Yershova stood out in a crowd, her stepfather said.

As Russian soldiers surrounded Bucha in early March, Yershova hid in an apartment with two other friends. When weeks went by without a word from Yershova, the family became desperate for news. 

Her mother was told by friends that images of a dead woman with similar tattoos to Yershova’s – which included a rose on her forearm – had been posted on a Telegram group set up by a detective in Bucha who was trying to identify hundreds of bodies found in the town after Russian troops withdrew from the area two weeks ago.

Dereko says the images, seen by CNN, show his stepdaughter’s mutilated body. Police told the family she had been killed by Russian soldiers.

“They mutilated her. They shot her in the leg, and then gave her a tourniquet to stop her bleeding. And then they shot her in the temple.” It looked like she was tortured or put up a fight, he said.

Dereko also believes Yershova was sexually abused by Russian troops. “The [police] investigator hinted” that she had been raped, he said.

Read the full story:

11:58 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

It's 7 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

As Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the effort to capture Mariupol from Ukraine a "success" and ordered his forces to halt outside the city's besieged Azovstal steel factory, US President Joe Biden said Thursday it was “questionable” whether the city had fallen. Meanwhile, an estimated tens of thousands of civilians in Mariupol remain trapped by air and ground attacks with little opportunity to evacuate safely, and satellite images point to evidence of mass graves outside the city.

Here are the latest developments on Russia's war in Ukraine:

  • Siege of Mariupol a "terrorist operation," Zelensky says: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday that "thousands" of civilians remain blockaded inside Mariupol as he likened the Russian siege to a "terrorist operation." Ukrainian officials on Tuesday also identified the location of apparent mass graves outside the city, claims bolstered by the publication of satellite images collected and analyzed by Maxar Technologies.
  • Mariupol evacuations are moving slowly, deputy PM says: The evacuation of civilians is going “very slowly," according to Ukraine's deputy prime minister, amid intense attacks from Russian forces. "On the Russian side, everything is very complicated, chaotic, slow and, of course, dishonest,” Iryna Vereshchuk said on Telegram. Ukrainian commanders on the ground have said Russian forces have not honored agreements to open evacuation corridors or enforce ceasefires.
  • Ukraine alleges Russian orders were given to kill POWs: Ukraine’s military intelligence on Wednesday released a purported communications intercept of Russian armed forces referring to an alleged order to kill Ukrainian prisoners of war in the city of Popasna in the eastern region of Luhansk, which is bearing the brunt of Russia’s renewed attack. It appears to feature Russian soldiers saying: “Keep the most senior among them, and let the rest go forever. Let them go forever, damn it, so that no one will ever see them again, including relatives.”
  • Neighboring nations say Russia committed genocide: The Estonian and Latvian parliaments adopted statements on Thursday saying Russia has committed genocide in Ukraine, citing mass graves and atrocities discovered in areas since vacated by Russian forces.
  • Annexations will cripple Russia, Zelensky says: Zelensky warned Russia on Thursday that any attempts at annexation — similar to Crimea or the so-called breakaway republics in the nation's east — will lead to sanctions that will leave Russia as poor as it was after its civil war in 1917. “I want to say straight away: any ‘Kherson People's Republics’ are not going to fly," he said.
  • US sends more aid to Ukraine: Saying there was a "critical window" as Russian forces build up in the east of Ukraine, Biden announced an additional $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine. The new package would include heavy artillery and drones, he said Thursday, along with ammunition.

11:56 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

Estonian and Latvian parliaments say Russia has committed genocide

From CNN's Jennifer Hauser

The Estonian and Latvian parliaments adopted statements on Thursday saying Russia has committed genocide in Ukraine.

In its statement, Estonia said "systematic and massive war crimes have been committed against the Ukrainian nation by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation," according to its parliament, the Riigikogu.

It cited the towns of Bucha, Borodianka, Hostomel, Irpin and Mariupol as well as other settlements that were occupied by Russian forces.

"The Russian Federation has committed acts of genocide, inter alia mass atrocities against the civilian population. These have consisted of murders, enforced disappearances, deportations, imprisonment, torture, rape, and desecration of corpses,” the statement said.

Latvia's parliament, the Saeima, unanimously adopted the statement, saying it was based on "extensive testimonies and evidence of brutal mass atrocities — the murders, torture, sexual violence and desecration of Ukrainian civilians, including women and children."

"As a member state of the UN, the Council of Europe, the EU, and NATO and a defender of democratic values, Latvia cannot accept the actions of the Russian Federation, carrying out mass destruction of Ukrainian people," it said in a press release.

What is genocide: The UN defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group." Genocide is when crimes against humanity are carried out with the goal of eliminating a population.

US President Joe Biden recently called the atrocities being uncovered in Ukraine “genocide.”

11:56 p.m. ET, April 21, 2022

Zelensky: Any new Russian annexation will lead to sanctions that will make Russia as poor as it was in 1917

From CNN's Hira Humayun

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (YouTube)

In his nightly address on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Russia that any attempts at annexation will lead to sanctions that will leave it as poor as it was after its civil war in 1917.

“I want to say straight away: any ‘Kherson People's Republics’ are not going to fly. If someone wants a new annexation, it can only lead to new powerful sanctions strikes on Russia. You will make your country as poor as Russia hasn’t been since the 1917 civil war. So it is better to seek peace now,” Zelensky said.

He urged the residents of the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to be very careful about the information they provide to Russian troops.

“If they ask you to fill out some questionnaires, leave your passport data somewhere, you should know - this is not to help you … This is aimed to falsify the so-called referendum on your land, if an order comes from Moscow to stage such a show,” he said.

Zelensky thanked the prime ministers of Spain and Denmark for their support as they arrived in Kyiv and thanked the Danish prime minister for showing readiness to support post-war reconstruction in Ukraine, particularly in Mykolaiv.

The Ukrainian president also thanked the US for additional support, saying, “The United States has announced a new package of support for our state. We are grateful for that. This package contains very powerful defense tools for our military. In particular, it is artillery, shells, drones. This is what we expected.”

Earlier on Thursday, Zelensky addressed the Parliament of Portugal and said as of Thursday, Russian forces have killed at least 1,126 Ukrainians in the Kyiv region alone, of which 40 are children. He also said Russian forces have already “deported” at least 500,000 Ukrainians from the territory they have occupied.